Keep Leading!® Podcast 085 | Leaders Driving Change | Marina Theodotou, Ed. D.

Keep Leading!® Podcast 085 | Leaders Driving Change | Marina Theodotou, Ed. D.

Marina Theodotou, Ed. D.
Strategic Systems Thinker
Leaders Driving Change

Episode Summary
I had a fascinating conversation with Dr. Marina Theodotou. She is a strategic systems thinker and the producer of TEDxNicosia and TEDxDAU. We discussed how leaders drive change.

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Bio
Dr. Marina Theodotou is a change management leader focusing on people, engagement, and culture. Dr. Theodotou develops and curates learning experiences to push boundaries and inspire the workforce at the Department of Defense. She holds a doctorate in organizational change and leadership from the University of Southern California.

LinkedIn
https://www.linkedin.com/in/marinatheodotou/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/MarinaTheodotou

Leadership Quote
“Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right thing” – Peter Drucker

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Transcript

The key to sustainable leadership lies in the ability to thrive during uncertainty, ambiguity, and change. Grand Heron International brings you the Coaching Assistance Program, giving your employees on-demand coaching to manage through a challenging situation and arrive at a solution. Visit GrandHeronInternational.Ca/Podcast to learn more.

This podcast is part of the C Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast, the podcast dedicated to promoting leadership development and sharing leadership insights. Here’s your host, The Leadership Excelerator®, Eddie Turner.

Eddie Turner:
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast, the podcast dedicated to leadership development and insights. I’m your host, Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®. I work with leaders to accelerate performance and drive impact through the power of executive and leadership coaching, facilitation and professional speaking.

Today, perhaps more than ever, it is important for leaders to learn how to drive change. We must learn how to drive change we want to adapt and be effective so that we’re not just surviving but we are thriving through the chaos engulfing our world. My guest today, Dr. Marina Theodotou is a change management leader focusing on people, engagement, and culture. Dr. Theodotou develops and curates learning experiences to push boundaries and inspire the workforce at the Department of Defense. She holds a doctorate in Organizational Change and Leadership from the University of Southern California.

Dr. Theodotou, welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast.

Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Thank you so much, Eddie. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m a big fan of your program and I love what you do and just simply excited to be here and join you and your guests.
Eddie Turner:
Well, I’m excited to have you. Dr. Theodotou, please tell us how you became interested in change.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Well, I’m so glad you asked because change is what happens to us every day, right? Change is part of nature and it’s the only constant, as we know, that’s what [inaudible] would have said so many thousands of years ago but how I came to it was through my life and career trajectory. So, I’ve done a lot of different things. I started in Banking and Financial Services. Then I went into Management Consulting. And now, I’m in Learning and Development. And I did this across different verticals, so in the private sector, in non-profits and now for government and across different geographies, so Americas and Middle East, and the European Union and, of course, now back in the US. So, when I looked back about five years ago in 2015 and I looked at my career and what I wanted to do going forward and I realized that there were two threads that I could pull and one of them was change and the other was learning to lead. Then I came across this amazing doctoral program at the University of Southern California, Rossier School of Education that was exactly focusing on this. So, I applied for the program and completed it and actually it changed my life because it gave me the practical applied research perspective. And so, I can have that lens now when I do my work and I do my research. And, as you mentioned earlier, my focus is implementing change and helping organizations and individuals optimize their performance through change.
Eddie Turner:
Wonderful. So, you’re saying your life was a case study in change.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
You can say that, yes.
Eddie Turner:
And you took it a step further and formalized it by going through a doctoral program that would immerse you in studies of change and you said it changed your life. That’s the ultimate change if something changes your life.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
That’s right. Yeah, absolutely. No, it really did and, like I said, it helped me put things in perspective. When you go through so much change in your own life and now we are all in this incredible unprecedented time where change has been thrust upon us in so many different ways, it’s so critical to be able to navigate and adapt and be able to shift forward and look ahead without losing our positivity and our drive.
Eddie Turner:
Indeed, that is critically important. So, how can leaders drive change during the time of COVID?
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Actually, I’ve been studying this and I just recently wrote an article, the last few days actually, about this exactly and what I did, I went to Amazon Prime, a lot of us are still under lockdown, so we are quarantining, I’ve been reading and what I call binge learning. So, recently, I’ve been watching this docuseries on Amazon Prime called Regular Heroes. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it but in it what they did is they reached out to regular heroes, people that live in our communities that are first responders and doctors but also grocers and inventors and truck drivers and people that, while we’ve been working safely at home, they’ve been out there in the frontlines suiting up every day and putting away their fears so that they could stock our grocery store shelves for us and keep us safe, deliver healthcare for us and also deliver our packages. So, I studied 15 of these people that have been featured in this docuseries and I wanted to distill some common threads that we could apply as individuals and learn from them.

So, here’s what I found. I found three things that they stay positive. So, regardless of the difficulty, all of these 15 folks that were featured, these regular heroes, all stayed positive. They said that “You know what, it’s really tough out there but I’m going to stay positive because I have to deliver.” “I have to deliver food to the homeless” said one woman. Actually, looking at the research right now. She is based out of LA and she was determined that she wants to continue to push forward somehow despite the difficulties. Another participant in this docuseries is Trevor. He is based in New York City. He was a senior inventory tech in a New York hospital for special surgery and he said that “I stay positive because I need to. I need to get things delivered in the hospital so that people can live.” A third participant said “You know what, I have to practice what I preach,” a reverend, again, in LA. He said that he is willing to put his life on the line and practice what he preaches.

So, these people are staying positive and we see that Carol Dweck did her research around Growth Mindset and actually has proven that people that are focusing on staying positive can actually do better and do more and be more successful. So, that’s one takeaway, staying positive.

The second thing that I found in these 15 amazing regular heroes is that they serve selflessly. So, I did a little bit of research on that and I found that you actually have the concepts of motivation and altruism that was defined back in 1875 by Auguste Comte and he said that “Altruism is the behavior driven by the concern for others’ welfare as a consequence of overcoming self-interest.” So, these regular heroes are serving selflessly. They’re not thinking about themselves. They’re putting their self second. They’re putting us first. So, this is really critical because they’re actually helping elevate all of us. This is another concept that Keith Ferrazzi is talking about in his book Leading Without Authority. He calls it co-elevation. So, if we all help each other, we’re co-elevating each other.

And the third thing that I found is that these leaders, everyday regular heroes are offering practical help. So, they’re not dilly-dallying with theory and what to do or freaking out. They’re out there delivering things. so, for example, this little girl, she’s like the youngest participant in this docuseries. She’s 14 years old. She delivers art kits to kids around the country and she says that “You know what, these things cost me like a thousand dollars to send out every month but I want kids to know that there is someone out there looking out for them.” That’s what she said. So, offering practical help. There’s another inspiring guy, a restaurateur, in New York City in the lower east side of Manhattan. He actually said that he didn’t know what to do in the beginning. He had to furlough all of his employees. So, what he did, he decided to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So, he started making hundreds of sandwiches and giving them out to first responders. So, that’s practical help.

So, these leaders we’re learning today were seeing leadership shifting and I’m looking at these regular heroes and these are the three things – staying positive, serving like how can we make a difference in our team today, how can we help our colleagues, how can we all work together, and the third thing is offering practical help. So, these are the three things that I think that we can do, each one of us can do today to actually help navigate this unprecedented change.

Eddie Turner:
Very good. So, thank you for those three methods – staying positive, being selfless, offering practical help. And certainly, Keith Ferrazzi is a heavyweight in our industry and that phrase he’s introduced in his latest book “to co-elevate” is something that serves leaders well as they’re trying to drive change.

And I must say I’ve heard of binge watching when it comes to Netflix but leave it to a Ph.D. to say she’s binge learning during the pandemic. I love it.

Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Yeah, that’s it. That’s what I’ve been doing.
Eddie Turner:
Well, very good.

So, I’m talking to Dr. Marina Theodotou and we are talking about leaders driving change. We’ll have more with Marina right after this.

This podcast is sponsored by Eddie Turner LLC. Organizations who need to accelerate the development of their leaders call Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®. Eddie works with leaders to accelerate performance and drive impact. Call Eddie Turner to help your leaders one on one as their coach or to inspire them as a group through the power of facilitation or a keynote address. Visit EddieTurnerLLC.com to learn more.

This is Simon T. Bailey, author, and you are listening to the Keep Leading!® Podcast with Eddie Turner.

Eddie Turner:
Okay, I am back. I’m talking to Dr. Marina Theodotou. Dr. Theodotou is a researcher and an organizational development expert and we’re understanding what it takes for you and I as leaders to be able to drive change.

And so, before the break, she gave us three very good tips that we can use during the time of COVID but now, Dr. Theodotou, I’d like to switch to the organizational setting. In our businesses, in our nonprofits, how do leaders drive change?

Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Thank you, Eddie. This is a great question. I want to go back to a great model that was defined by these two professors at UC. Their names are Clark and Estes. So, this model is called the KMO Model and studied it and used it in my dissertation. And actually, it makes a lot of sense and I like it because it’s practical. So, this model says if you want to implement change, you have to do three things. You have to make sure that people have the skills they need to go from A to B. So, when we’re talking about change, we’re talking about change in behavior. Today, we’re in A and tomorrow we want to go to B but in B, people need to be behaving differently. So, do they have the skills, the knowledge to move from A to B. So, the first lever is the knowledge. How do we provide people the knowledge and expertise so that they can be doing things differently tomorrow? So, that’s the first thing, the first lever.

So, the second lever is motivation. So, how do you motivate people? How do you take away the fear? How do you make them feel psychologically safe that change is going to be difficult but it’s going to be better, it’s going to be good when we change? That’s the motivation part. That’s the most difficult thing to do, to motivate people to embrace change?

Now, the third thing is this organizational infrastructure. It’s the tools, the technology. So, for example, during COVID we have to all start working from home. So, three things – do we have the skills to use WebEx and Zoom. That’s the K component. Are we motivated? Do we feel safe that we’re at home working safely but do we feel connected with the other members of our team that are working in other parts of the country or the world? How do we motivate people to come back to that screen and do the work?

And then the third piece is the organizational infrastructure. Does our team have the tools? Do they have the Zoom, the Slack, the Mirror, the WebEx that they need to make it happen?

So, change is complex. And, by no means, I want to simplify it into three basic things but it does help to start with small steps and these three basic levers can help us start working and implementing change in our organizations.

Eddie Turner:
So, you’ve introduced a model for us and anyone who knows me knows I love models and I love frameworks. So, thank you for this. So, the KMO model and that stands for Knowledge, Motivation, and Organization.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
That’s right and Clark and Estes are the creators of the model.
Eddie Turner:
Clark and Estes, all right. Well, certainly, a good model to be able to use inside of organizations. And, as you’ve said, certainly organizations have had to consider something as simple as how you use Zoom but not just use Zoom but use it effectively. And I remember having to start sessions prior to March 2020 with explaining the layout of the Zoom screen when I led meetings online. And now it’s a given everybody understands the layout as much as they do Facebook or some other daily social tool.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Isn’t that amazing? Yeah.
Eddie Turner:
Yes. And so, now, it’s even of course changed how we show up for meetings and how effective we are in our organizations has changed because it’s quite frankly leveled the playing field. It’s no longer about someone having a corner office. Everybody has the same size square where you show up to the meeting.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I think COVID has actually made things much more informal in a sense because we are in our living rooms and our office is at home and people can actually see part of us in our living space. So, it’s quite interesting. It’s fascinating, actually.
Eddie Turner:
We’re more human now.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Yeah, exactly.
Eddie Turner:
Yeah, sometimes too human but we won’t talk about some of those mishaps we’ve seen.

Now, if I am a leader listening to this conversation and we’ve talked about the organizational context, what we need to do at a higher level, but what about me personally? What if I am a manager who needs to transition from managing to truly leading? What steps do I need to take?

Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Yeah, that’s another great question. Thank you so much for posing that because we do want our audience to think about that. And there are a lot of things that we can do. So, as leaders, as managers transitioning into leadership, we want to start shifting perspectives, shifting perspectives from the tactical to the strategic, from being analytical to also being integrators, from being specialists to being generalists, and my favorite, from being bricklayers to architects. There’s a great article that Michael Watkins wrote in Harvard Business Review in 2012 that actually inspired me to distill these seven approaches and I mentioned four of these but the basic gist here is that Peter Drucker said, another favorite quote of mine, that “Managing is doing things right and leading is doing the right thing.” So, that right there is so critical because, for me, it denotes this shift. It’s a mind shift. It’s a shift from the everyday tactical to the bigger picture because as leaders we need to be able to articulate the vision, where are we going, and also remove the obstacles in the way. So, that means that we can no longer just focus on being specialists on one thing. We have to transform to being T-shaped people from I-shaped people. And I love that. Actually, the CEO of the company Ideo came up with that T-shaped people concept a few years ago, as we all know. So, the vertical part of the T is the specialization we need to have. And then the horizontal part of the T is the other skills that we need to build that are broader and being able to communicate, communication skills, collaboration, creativity, empathy, candor, all of these skills that as leaders we need to cultivate so that we can help our team follow us to the path ahead and follow our vision. So, this is all very exciting.
Eddie Turner:
That’s an interesting model. So, T-shaped and then I-shape. What’s the I-shaped for?
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
So, I-shaped is somebody who is just a specialist in one thing but one thing only. So, for example, I don’t want to pick on accountants but let’s pick on an accountant is a specialist, just does accounting but a T-shaped accountant is a is a managerial accountant. So, they have the vertical part of the T which is again still the accounting but the top part of the T is the horizontal part. That’s the broader perspective of the whole business and the management aspect of accounting and how do you really apply it to make business decisions. So, that’s one basic example of I-shaped people and T-shaped people. And, actually now, there is cone-shaped people which is people with multi-modal that have several areas of expertise or polymaths rather. It’s quite interesting. That’s also something that has been becoming more popular. So, the bottom line, Eddie, is that we need to be adaptive and adaptable to change and we need to keep learning. So, lifelong learning is so critical to leaders.
Eddie Turner:
Indeed, which is why you’ve been spending COVID binge learning.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
That’s right.
Eddie Turner:
You’re walking the talk. I love it. And, of course, you referenced Michael Watkins, the renowned Harvard professor and that article that he wrote in the Harvard Business Review. Many people might know him, may not know his name but they know the book The First 90 Days, especially those in HR. That’s a very popular book that a lot of folks reference. So, good. I love it. You are helping me geek out here in this episode.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Yeah, I love that book. Thank you for reminding us of that. Yeah, it’s all about standing on the shoulders of giants, right? That’s how and hopefully sometime in the future others will stand on our shoulders and we can all co-elevate.
Eddie Turner:
Co-elevated, yes, absolutely, #KeithFerrazi.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
There you go.
Eddie Turner:
I saw something interesting about you. I see that you’re involved in an upcoming TEDx.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
That’s right.
Eddie Turner:
Tell me about it.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
So, I’ve been involved in TEDx events for the last decade almost.
Eddie Turner:
Really?
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Yes.
Eddie Turner:
I thought this was something new.
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
No, actually, I’ve organized four so far, so three. TEDx Nicosia back in Cyprus and the first one was in 2011. This will be our second TEDxDAU event at the Department of Defense and we’re very excited. It is an internal event. So, I cannot reveal details but I can talk in general about TEDx events. I love them because they are a way to give regular people that are doing extraordinary things the platform to share their ideas. We’re all familiar with TED Talks. So, when you organize a TEDx event, you have both the responsibility but also the empowerment to curate the experience for the participants. And I have to be clear that you cannot do a TEDx event alone. It takes a village. It takes an amazing team. I’ve always had great teams working selflessly, again. TEDx events are non-profit. There is no cost. And, of course, now we’re doing them within the Department of Defense at DAU. So, they are a learning event for DAU and it’s a wonderful way to bring people together to start thinking differently. And right now, we’re in the middle of training our speakers. We have 12 speakers. I’ve always had 12 speakers in all of my events that I did previously independently. So, now as well here at DAU we had 12 speakers next last year, we have 12 speakers this year.

I can talk about the boot camp that we’ve built. So, we’ve built a 10-week boot camp to prepare speakers and help them create their talk. TED Talks are pretty difficult because they have to be concise. Every TED Talk has to be 18 minutes or less. And this year, because we are doing the event completely online, virtual, the talks will be shorter, will be about 10 minutes. And so, there’s an art and a science to doing that but as a rule of thumb, for every minute of TED Talk, there’s an hour of practice behind the scenes. So, 18-minute TED Talk, 18-hour practice. So, it’s a lot of great work but it’s so inspiring and so amazing to see all these speakers come up with their ideas and mind map them and narrow them down and then create the talks. So, it’s exciting. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share a little bit of that.

Eddie Turner:
Yes, because the theme of Ted Talks is “ideas worth sharing” and we all are familiar with how certain TEDx talks have made it to the main platform of TED and truly change the world, can it be said that you are using this as another way of being a leader who’s driving change?
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Thank you for pointing that out. Actually, yes, you can say that. You can say that we are using TEDx as a platform to drive change. That’s exactly right.
Eddie Turner:
Very good. I have thoroughly enjoyed talking with you. What’s the main message you’d like to leave with our listeners?
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Well, I would like to leave our listeners with this. So, you can lead from anywhere you are. One of my favorite quotes is by president Theodore Roosevelt who said “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” And so, keep leading. And thank you, Eddie, for having me on the show. I really enjoyed it. And thank you to all our listeners.
Eddie Turner:
And where can my listeners learn more about you?
Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
They can reach out to me on LinkedIn. That’s the easiest and fastest way.
Eddie Turner:
All right. Well, we’ll make sure we drop a link to your profile in the show notes so no matter where people are, they can connect with you. Connect with Dr. Marina Theodotou. She’s an amazing person who you want to know, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for being a guest.

Marina Theodotou, Ed.D.:
Thank you.
Eddie Turner:
And thank you for listening. That concludes this episode everyone, I’m Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®, reminding you that leadership is not about our title or our position. Leadership is an activity. leadership is action. It’s not the case of once a leader, always a leader. It’s not a garment that we put on and take off. We must be a leader at our core and allow it to emanate in all we do. So, whatever you’re doing, always keep leading.

Thank you for listening to your host Eddie Turner on the Keep Leading!® Podcast. Please remember to subscribe to the Keep Leading!® Podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen. For more information about Eddie Turner’s work, please visit EddieTurnerLLC.com.

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The Keep Leading!® podcast is for people passionate about leadership. It is dedicated to leadership development and insights. Join your host Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator® as he speaks with accomplished leaders and people of influence across the globe as they share their journey to leadership excellence. Listen as they share leadership strategies, techniques and insights. For more information visit eddieturnerllc.com or follow Eddie Turner on Twitter and Instagram at @eddieturnerjr. Like Eddie Turner LLC on Facebook. Connect with Eddie Turner on LinkedIn.